Ubitquity is a blockchain-based real estate platform that provides secure recording, tracking, and transferring of property deeds. Bitcoin.com spoke with its founder and CEO, Nathan Wosnack, on how it will not only revolutionize land registry and prevent fraud, but also increase the value of your house, and why his company picked the Bitcoin blockchain.
Also read: Bitland: Blockchain Land Registry Against ‘Corrupt Government’
A ‘Unique Fingerprint’ for Real Estate Property
Bitcoin.com (BC): What does the Ubitquity platform do?
Nathan Wosnack (NW): We recognized the utility of the blockchain for its record keeping capabilities and decided to develop those capabilities to meet humanity’s ever increasing needs for efficient record keeping related to real estate, while simultaneously yielding significant cost savings for all parties involved in real estate transactions. Along the way, we realized that some municipalities have actually begun exploring this exact possibility; which only highlights the fact that this is exactly the right time and we are in precisely the right place.
BC: What’s the long-term goal?
NW: To offer a simple user experience for securely recording, tracking, and transferring deeds on our SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) blockchain platform. As it evolves, the platform will assist financial institutions, title, and mortgage companies benefit from a reduced title search time, increased confidence and transparency.
Once recorded to the blockchain, no central authority or malicious actors can change it.
BC: What’s the benefit of having an immutable property record?
NW: Once a record is created, all pertinent future documents associated with the ownership of that ‘asset’ is also added to that record. Creating a permanent, immutable ledger of ownership information that can not be changed, lost, or corrupted because it is permanently recorded on the peer-to-peer Bitcoin blockchain. Creating something akin to a fingerprint of that property, fully transparent and available to the public. And like a unique fingerprint, once it exists, stays incorruptible and fully accessible.
Once recorded to the blockchain, no central authority or malicious actors can change it. So whether we exist in the future or not, the data will. And it will continue to serve the people, as public information was always intended to serve… for transparency and democracy.
BC: Why the Bitcoin blockchain?
NW: Because it has the best peer-to-peer consensus mechanism in the world, and has seven years of history; therefore is the most tried tested, true and arguably the most secure blockchain. It’s worth mentioning we have received a lot of praise from both the community and clients for our commitment to the Bitcoin blockchain.
BC: Are you open to using other “permissioned” chains, for example?
NW: We have early pilot users who have specific needs that require permissioned blockchain capabilities and we are exploring those avenues along with smart contracts such as using Ethereum, and also Rootstock (using the Bitcoin blockchain) in the future. Their testnet will be available soon.
The community seems to make this into a …’Bitcoin’s public blockchain versus permissioned ledgers’ debate … as if you have to pick just one and stick with it ad infinitum.
At Ubitquity we have maintained the policy and commitment to being blockchain agnostic; a term we have been using internally for over a year before it started being picked up in the public recently. Our decisions for the use of the Bitcoin blockchain on the Colu API (Colored Coins) as our primary platform is a purely objective technical decision rather than political one. The community seems to make this into a binary / black and white “Bitcoin’s public blockchain versus permissioned ledgers” debate… as if you have to pick just one and stick with it ad infinitum. With the new inquiries and requirements for smart contract/permissioned ledger capabilities, we’ve been actively exploring those.
At the end of the day if there is a market demand we as a company will address those on a case by case basis while maintaining our goals of being distributed and having a scalable Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform for Small Business and Enterprise.
BC: How will this platform change the way land registry is done today?
NW: We envision the platform eventually transforming into something that doesn’t just mimic the currently existing registry system but eventually serves as the complete electronic health record of an asset (a property). We’ll not just handle deed of trust and mortgage notes; but surveys, flood elevation certificates, major structural warranties, and whatever other pertinent property records the owner deems important to correctly preserve and record.
This is akin to a complete medical record for that property.
As the age old adage goes: “information is power”; therefore it is logical to see how an asset (a property) would potentially maintain its value better over time if there was a clear record of its entire history. Not just every deed of trust and ownership information but all pertinent information on the property’s existence. This is akin to a complete medical record for that property.
For example, imagine that a new house is built. The land’s origins are recorded: subdivision, plat, survey, and GPS coordinates, etc. The building permits are recorded by the builder and all sales records from the original owners to every next sale. But not only that: the original builder warranty is there too. Any future improvements, permits, warranties, surveys, flood elevation certificates, and more. 50 years later the current owner gets foreclosed on or simply passes away without heirs.
BC: Will real estate prices be affected if we have all this additional info?
NW: The property is much more valuable having a clear detailed record of all the major things that happened in the last 50 years. We know if anything is under warranty or who to contact if that five year old roof is leaking when it is supposed to last thirty, or where the septic tank is buried so we don’t accidentally pave over the leach field.
The property is much more valuable having a clear detailed record…
We know when the old owner put in the pool or erected that fence in that which encroached over the property line. We can easily go back to every major event in that property’s history and truly inform the next buyer. Being able to better determine true market value while marketing it for sale and adding a significant amount to the transaction.
BC: What types of organizations have shown the most interest in this concept?
NW: To our delight we have received an enormous amount of interest from Fortune 25 Financial Institutions, other non-traditional Mortgage Originators, Small and Enterprise-level Title companies, one of the “big five” consulting firms, and organizations currently involved in poverty reduction and land tracking.
Companies that have a need for general land registration, whether for corporate or nonprofit reasons. We are also in early discussions with a few representatives from counties involved in researching and piloting the development of smart cities which utilize the power of blockchain technology.
Our Director of Business Development, Matt McKibbin, was also a part of a panel discussion at the World Bank after few months ago in Washington DC, at their Land & Poverty conference where he presented a land title paper and discussed blockchain. This panel – along with the Agentic Group in New York City, and Liberty Forum in New Hampshire in February, Columbia GSAPP “Distributive Property” our CTO Christian Saucier was on a panel for with ConsenSys in early May. A couple of weeks ago we had a presence at the MIT Center for Real Estate (CRE) World Real Estate Forum event, and this also resulted in major interest in our company.
BC: How would mortgage and real estate firms benefit from implementing such a platform? Wouldn’t it automate some processes, making some jobs obsolete?
NW: In the free market, jobs continuously evolve. Recording a transfer ownership onto our platform would simply be one additional step to the existing recording process. Many title companies already digitize all the closing documents and store them in the “cloud” for their clients. The Ubitquity platform will simply provide a more secure way of storing and recording the documents in an immutable ledger.
We’re drastically improving authenticity and we envision possibly creating a new career/specialty. A document verifiability consultant or blockchain data entry clerks/specialist who could be trained on how to facilitate this type of recording.
BC: Can this platform reduce the amount of fraud currently present today’s housing industry? Could it, for example, have prevented the defaults of the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis?”
NW: Prevent the defaults? No. That’s a whole different economic discussion. Besides, we’re not central banks, we don’t just print money to give people to pay their mortgages. Though our platform certainly would have helped prevent a lot of the messy aftermath of the housing crisis.
Having an easily accessible, accurate public ledger of all the pertinent mortgage and deed information is critical for mortgage servicing companies and investors in the secondary mortgage market environment. It’s also critically important to real estate professionals and title companies involved in resale of short sales and foreclosures. Municipalities would also benefit by being able to easily research the parties responsible for property preservation and maintenance of blighted properties.
Our platform certainly would have helped prevent a lot of the messy aftermath of the housing crisis.
Current records kept by municipalities are presumed to be reliable and accurate but actually, title insurance exists precisely to ensure against human errors in ownership records, many of which are not even digitally preserved and susceptible to physical damage and loss.
Since the records on our platform cannot be tampered with, it would significantly help reduce fraud. The blockchain allows the data to be tamperproof and they are all stored electronically on centralized systems which can be falsified and hacked or the building can burn down, Act of God, Terrorist Acts. We can prevent force majeure through our distributed platform.
Do you think real estate is going the way of the blockchain? Would you put register your house on such a platform? Let us know in the comments sections below!
Images courtesy of ubitquity, onthemarketblog.blogspot.com, shutterstock, duquesnejurismagazine.blogspot.com